Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trusting God on the High Wires of Life

“Jesus said, ‘Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’” Matthew 11:28-29 (The Message)

I’ve been walking with God for 58 years, having accepted Him as my Savior when I was just eight years old. Wow – that’s a long time. So long that it would almost lead me to believe that I’ve got “this thing of following Jesus” mastered. Not quite! Not in this lifetime any way!

One of the things I love about my relationship with Jesus is the assurance of His faithfulness. He is faithful in His love for me; He is faithful to light my path when I need direction; He is faithful to His word that He will never leave me or forsake me; He is faithful to give me His wisdom when I ask. There are so many ways He is faithful … I could go on and on.

A week ago we had a big rainstorm on Monday and it just poured and poured and poured. Before it grew dark, the rain stopped and we saw a beautiful rainbow in the sky. The rainbow was God's covenant and promise to Noah and his family ... and all of his descendants (that's us) ... that He would never destroy the world by flood again (Genesis 9). So how many years has it been since God made that covenant? I don't know, but it's been a long, long time. Once again, we see that God has been faithful to keep His promise for all these years and He still puts "the bow" in the sky today as a reminder. If I can visibly see His faithfulness through the rainbow, then I have all the years since then to base why I can trust Him now.

A few weeks ago I went with a great group of women from our church in Jakarta to a ladies retreat at Rumah Jambuluwuk. It was about a three hour drive south of us to the city of Bogor. As we left the comfort of the freeway, we found ourselves bumping along on the potted streets of Bogor—-potholes like you’ve never seen. It was pretty slow going and finally we started climbing slightly, around curves and through some beautiful, green vegetation and tall trees. Ahhhhhhh, we finally arrived.

As we drove onto the beautiful grounds, I spotted it ahead and to the left—a Zip Line. Wow! What was that doing in Indonesia? It looked like fun, but I didn’t know if it was available for our use and would it be safe HERE! Wait a minute, I don’t like heights!

I settled into our room with my roommate, Judy and prepared for dinner. As the evening began, the Saturday breakout sessions were presented and sure enough, the zip line was for us to use too; all for the price of 60,000 rupiah (~$6). Not bad! So I determined that I was going to do it. My biggest challenge would be to climb up the tall tower to the platform. YIKES! That was pretty high.

After lunch on Saturday, I found another (much younger, ~28 yrs) friend that wanted to do the Zip Line too. I was already there at 2 pm when Jennifer and another friend, Adele, joined me. HOWEVER, they didn’t just want to do the Zip Line, they wanted to do the whole ROPE course and I can’t believe I let them talk me into it! (Actually, I think I didn’t want these young, agile girls to show up this retired, 65 year old lady.)

They went first. It was no problem for either of them and it didn’t look too difficult. So I got all hooked up to the carabeiners and tether and started up the ropes. It was slow going, and it was hard to pull my body weight up with each step, but I finally got to the top and pulled myself up (yep, all of me) to the platform on the left. The “guide” took off one set of tethers and hooked me up to another for the next part of the course.

Oh my, what did I get myself into?! I had to reach out and grab the rope of the swing with one hand, then let my other hand go and reach out for the other rope--then leave the security of the platform and step out onto the swing with one foot, then the other. (The palms of my hands are sweaty just thinking of it.) Wow! I made it. I waited for the swing to stop swinging and went for the second swing. Little by little, I made it across the 11 swings, constantly being encouraged by Jennifer and Adele.

The last part of the rope course was the easiest. All I had to do was hold on to the side ropes of a “rope walk way” and put one foot out at a time and walk on the bottom rope. I was encouraged “not to look down” – so I didn’t. Yeah!! I did it. And then came the waited for Zip Line. It was exhilarating! A risk I thought I would never take! WOW! Truthfully, I’m pretty proud of myself.

As I’ve reflected on this adventure, watched and re-watched the videos, laughing each time, I realize that stepping out onto those swings is a lot like trusting God. The Bible is filled with God's promises that tell us we can trust Him. Here are a few verses that come to mind as I think about that “tight-rope act” up on those high ropes:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

“For He will give His angels charge concerning you; to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalms 91:11-12

"The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. Isaiah 43:2

This one is especially appropriate:

'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' Isaiah 41:10

The truth about each of these verses is that God KEEPS HIS PROMISE which in turn allows us to trust Him.

If I could step out on those ropes, trusting that the tether and carabeiners could keep me from falling, when they are man’s attempt at security, how much more should I be able to trust the God and creator of the universe to care for me when He has been doing the same thing from the beginning of time. Have you noticed lately that the stars and planets are still "hangin'" up there :)

In my 58 years as a Christian, I’ve learned one thing for sure that I'm willing to stake my life on: God is dependable and faithful and whatever He promises, He is good for. I know of nothing else in this whole world that meets or measures up with that same criteria. I can trust Him with every minute detail of my life and have nothing to fear. For that I am eternally grateful to the one who holds me in the palm of His hand.

I close with this story, author unknown.

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized his picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on, when I met God, it seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that God was at the back, helping me pedal.

I don’t know when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points. But when he took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds. It was all I could do to hang on!

Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer! and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed; gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey. And we were off again. He said, ‘Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.’ So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

At first I did not trust Him to be in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with God as my delightful constant companion.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says, “Pedal!”